(CNN)Willie O’Ree first crossed paths with Jackie Robinson in 1949, two years after the Dodgers legend broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball. O’Ree was 14 years old, well ahead of making history himself.
Before he became the first black player in the National Hockey League, and even longer before he was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame, O’Ree was visiting New York. Back then, he was playing two sports. His baseball team had won a championship, and the reward was a trip to see the Empire State Building and Radio Music City Hall.
“I met Mr. Robinson after a game,” O’Ree, now 83, told CNN Sport’s Patrick Snell. “I shook hands with him down by the dugout. And (I) told Mr. Robinson that I not only played baseball but I played hockey, and he remarked that he didn’t know that there were any black kids playing hockey.”